Monday, October 28, 2013

Online Tutoring for Kids K-5 Review Announcement

I have parent teacher conferences next week at which point I will really get to find out how Preston is faring. Does anyone else get anxious for these brief fifteen minute meetings? Just me? Bah. I received (or rather found it in the depth's of Preston's backpack, crumpled and ripped) a preliminary 'report card' that has been newly refurbished using some number system. And they base the numbers off of how well the student is understanding the concept - not necessarily grades on their work. May I say that I'm not quite sure what I think about this? Do they make the number based from test scores? Do they grade the work that is turned in and base scores from this? Is it more standardized testing through Common Core? Regardless, let me say this - I was Honors and AP English throughout school. I bombed the AP test at the end of the year; I didn't get any college credit for taking the class and I had to take a placement test my freshmen year of college. I was put in a remedial writing class. I remember asking a question at one point during my remedial class and the teacher lost it with the rest of the students. "Why aren't any of YOU asking questions? We've got a student here that should be in Advanced Placement classes and she's the only one asking questions!!" Needless to say, he wrote me a glowing recommendation to take with me anywhere I needed and I aced the class. I aced all of my writing classes. I can't test. I don't know what happens whether my brain turns to sludge, I over-panic and over-think or what, but I don't do tests. Are they really a fair measurement of our progress and learnedness? Is that even a word? I seriously doubt it.

Anyway, stepping off my soap box, I am excited to announce that I will be doing an online tutoring service review. Preston will be utilizing the online tutoring service from K5 Learning. We'll be giving it a whirl for six weeks and our focus will be on reading and writing. The site offers help for kids aged kindergarten through fifth grade on math, reading and writing. They have free assessments and a 14-day free trial. I'll keep you posted!

You can find out more about them as on their website as well as their facebook page at the following addresses:


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Letters To Communicate

I remember the days when my mom would drive me down the canyon to ballet class. For quite some time I really didn't like it. She made me stick with dance until a few years went by and I finally said I was done. Ironically, several months later, I realized how much I absolutely loved dance class and how much I was missing it. Wonderfully enough, she started taking me again and from that moment on I've had a passion for dance. On occasion she would stay and watch - which I'm sure she loved. I couldn't stand it! I wanted her out running errands - I guess I've never been one for focused attention. Preston however, who just started taking karate a month ago, loves it when I stay to watch. I try to stay for at least one class a week when either my husband or step-son can watch the toddler at home; I've tried to watch class with the toddler but even just saying that aloud is a joke; he just wants to be on the mat kicking and yelling like the big kids and it just doesn't work. On Tuesday this week I was able to watch Preston in action and I couldn't stop smiling with pride; I've never seen him so focused and determined.

This may sound terrible, but these proud moments don't happen as often as I would prefer. He's been one tough cookie and some days I wonder how I've survived thus far. Right now though, I am so profoundly impressed with him - he has made incredible strides over the last couple of years and even in the last couple of months. Karate has been such a force for good for him. Last week Preston volunteered to lead his peers in the repeating of the 'I Vow.' I inwardly cringed sure that he wouldn't be able to do it and would be down and frustrated after his attempt. Once he got going, he knew it, lead with confidence, received high-fives from his classmates and I was so impressed. At class this week the teacher would call out what move to do and Preston didn't hesitate - he was sharp and on task. He's also been determined to not be absent or tardy to class, participate in the Reflections competition and get above a B average so as to achieve his Distinguished Dragon award. He is also pursuing his Patriotic Award. And I'm astonished every morning when he appears for breakfast dressed and has already made his bed without me nagging three times about it. What the? Is that possible? Seemingly small feats I know but really quite huge in reality. He even showered before school this morning so he could have sharp-looking hair. For the kid who doesn't care about chocolate shake on his face and sporting the essence of 'bed-head' I tried to just roll with it without giving away my excitement (have you noticed that kids want to do the opposite of what you want?).

With all of these wonderful accomplishments swirling in my head, I sat down to write him a letter. This was the topic of conversation when I met last with his therapist. I asked her how I can communicate with him good or bad because he intrinsically shuts down when my mouth opens (ah, I remember those days myself). She suggested writing him letters. Keep them short, to the point, and don't re-state anything - those were my only parameters. That was the moment that I recalled the stash of letters that I kept from my father (yes mom, I have several of yours as well!). Most of the letters I got were from when I was in trouble but his words were so profound and I knew that he was right about everything he said; I kept them for future light reading - even twenty years into the future I still pull them out. I remember also a small post-it note he left on my desk one day after I went to a church canning assignment despite the fact that none of my friends that signed up to go went. I went because I had already committed to doing it and I remembered one of his letters about being a woman of my word. I was there with several older gals from my church and it wasn't the most fabulous four hours I've ever spent but it wasn't bad either. The note said something along the lines of, "I'm proud of you for honoring your commitment especially when you didn't really want to go and your friends ditched out."  I put the note under my bathroom sink and saw it every time I threw something out. I was recently disappointed to find that it had most likely been thrown out after a remodel. It was so simple but I had kept it and even sneaked peaks at it years after I had been married and moved out.

Good praise or bad news for them, in letters I've said what I need to say and they can go back to it again and again if they choose. It is also done in a neutral environment without warring words and egos which means chance of reception on their part is going to go up. What other means of communication have you used that have proven successful?